In Psalm 148:13 (KJV) the Psalmist David wrote, “Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.”
But what is God’s actual name?
In this study we discuss the various names mentioned for God in the Old Testament Hebrew. Each of our Heavenly Father’s names describe different shades of His magnificent character, being, and personality, allowing us to know our Father better and learn what God wishes us to develop in our character, in order to bring joy, honor, glory, and praise to the Creator of all.
Almighty God—”El Shaddai”
The basic form for the Hebrew name of God is “El.” The word “El” means “might, strength, power.” The Schofield Reference Bible states that God (El) signifies the “Strong One.”
The word “Shaddai” is formed from the Hebrew words shad—the breast—and shadah—to shed, to pour out. Thus, El Shaddai is “the God who pours out blessings, who gives them richly, abundantly, continually” (Adam Clark’s Commentary, Genesis 17:1). God is “Shaddai” because He is the nourisher, the strength‑giver, and thus the satisfier, who pours Himself into believing lives.
The primary translations of this root in the scriptures are “god” (for pagan or false gods), and “God” (for the true God of Israel). However, in Strong’s Concordance “El Shaddai” is not found under the English words “God” or “Lord,” but rather “Almighty” (Strong’s 7706). “All‑sufficient” would express the Almighty God (El Shaddai) for He not only enriches, but also makes fruitful. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the first occurrence of the name “El Shaddai” in the Bible, in Genesis 17:1.
“(1) And it came to pass that, when Abram was ninety and nine years old [being “as good as dead,” Hebrews 11:12] Yahweh appeared unto Abram, and said unto him, I, am GOD Almighty,—Walk, thou before me and become thou blameless: (2) That I may set my covenant betwixt me and thee, And may multiply thee, exceedingly. (3) And Abram fell on his face,—and God spake with him, saying: (4) As for me, lo! my covenant is with thee,—So shalt thou become—father of a multitude of nations; (5) And thy name shall no more be called Abram,—but thy name shall become Abraham, for father of a multitude of nations, have I appointed thee” (Genesis 17:1‑5, Rotherham).
All‑Powerful and All‑Sufficient
We can now best understand God’s character when combining these two named attributes of God’s being: All‑Powerful (“El“) and All‑Sufficient (“El Shaddai“).
Genesis 17:1 is a beautifully clear and direct statement from God of His unlimited, supreme, divine power and this quality of God can be best described in one word as God’s OMNIPOTENCE. Even simply because of God’s omnipotence, we should focus on being “blameless” through Christ. That is, through a firm belief (based on testing/studying the Scriptures, Romans 10:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:21), and thus from a steadfast faith (1 Corinthians 15:58, Hebrews 6:19) in Christ as a ransom for our sins (and for the whole world, 1 Corinthians 15:21), we are redeemed and reckoned as righteous children of God (Romans 8).
Our Heavenly Father is able to meet every need (Philippians 4:19) and protect us from any danger to our spiritual lives (Jude 1:24).
Our faith and trust in El Shaddai can turn any temporal difficulty into a spiritual blessing for our eternal interests (Romans 8:28). Our responsibility is to manifest complete faith and trust in God (Isaiah 40:28‑31, 41:10, Jeremiah 17:5, Exodus 15:2, 1 Chronicles 16:11, Luke 12:8‑10, John 12:37‑43, 2 Kings 5:13‑15, Genesis 15:6‑10). Then we can have perfect peace of mind in His all‑sufficient grace (Isaiah 26:3, 2 Corinthians 12:9).
“We must supply our best effort, which will always be too weak and insufficient to overcome all of our imperfections, but El Shaddai will supply whatever is needed to make up for our shortcomings. God’s name, El Shaddai, describes not only what God is, but also what He does for us. El Shaddai sustains us, nourishes us, comforts us, and provides everything we need. This should make us more grateful, more peaceful; and make us feel our complete dependence upon Him. Knowing God as El Shaddai helps us more readily to praise Jehovah, our Heavenly Father, in all the experiences of life” (Br. Allan Ross, “El Shaddai,” Beauties of the Truth, November 2014).
The Patriarchs were close to El Shaddai, our Heavenly Father. They depended on Him for everything in normal life. They were a pastoral people and depended on their crops and herds for food. If there was a drought, or a disease in their herds, they could starve. They did not have unemployment benefits or retirement plans through difficult times. They had El Shaddai and that was all they needed.
The Name “Jehovah”
Jehovah—the “Self Existing One,” “The Eternal One”—is God’s primary name. It is a translation of what is known as the Tetragrammaton. The Greek word “Tetragrammaton” means “four (tetra) letters (gramma)” because “Jehovah” comes from four Hebrew letters יהוה (yod, he, waw, he)—transliterated into English as “JHWH” sometimes written as “YHWH.” Some Bible translations do render the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah, just as it occurs in the Hebrew Old Testament, such as The American Standard Version 1901 edition (in 6,823 places) and The Emphatic Diaglott (in 18 places.)
“Jehovah” is the name that God gave to himself in Exodus 3:13‑15.
“(13) Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, what is his name? What shall I say unto them? (14) And God [elohiym, Strongs 430] said unto Moses, I AM [hayah, Strongs 1961] THAT I AM [hayah]: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM [Jehovah] hath sent me unto you. (15) And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”
The RVIC Bible (by Br. Jim Parkinson) has footnotes for Genesis 3:14‑15 which read:
“(14) Or, I AM BECAUSE I AM. or, I AM WHO AM. or, I WILL BE WHAT I WILL TO BE. or, I CONTINUE TO BE THE ONE CONTINUING EVERMORE. (15) Hb. Ehyeh — future tense (all three times). From the same root as Jehovah or Yahweh.”
Similarly Br. Ronald Day explains in his website study titled “The Divine Name” the following: “Yahweh [Jehovah] is the third person singular of the Hebrew verb hayah (to be or become). In Exodus 3:14 Jehovah gives Moses a different variation of his name in the first person: ‘I will be what I will be (Ehyeh’ asher’ ehyeh’).’ (Revised Standard Version – footnote) Many translations render this ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ However, according some authorities, the Hebrew word hayah, as used in this verse, means more than just to exist. It also carries with it the thought of coming into existence, or causing to exist. Thus the third person would mean: ‘He will cause to be,’ or ‘He causes to be.’”
In relation to Exodus 3:14, the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, vol. 14, page 1065, states that in this particular verse “a merely folk etymology of the name, based on the qal form of the verb ‘to be,’ is given.” “Grammatically, because of its vocalization, yahweh can only be a … causative form of this verb, with the meaning ‘He causes to be, He brings into being.’ Probably, therefore, Yahweh is an abbreviated form of the longer, yahweh aser yihweh, ‘He brings into being whatever exists.’ The name, therefore, describes the God of Israel as the Creator of the universe.” (Ronald Day, “The Divine Name”.) That this meaning is correct can be seen by observing the indicated meaning of Jehovah in Exodus 6:2,3 – which is discussed further in this study.
Today you will not find the divine name “Jehovah” (English) (nor “Yahweh”) in the New American Standard Bible, not even in the four places that were in the original AKJV (i.e. Exodus 6:3, Psalms 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4).
“The name was removed quite simply because there was many thousands of years ago a Usurper to the throne of God, the great liar, the Adversary. His first act of rebellion was to accuse Jehovah of lying to Adam and Eve about the tree of knowledge telling Eve that if she ate of the fruit she would become like God knowing all things and that she would not die. Ever since, Satan has opposed the Most High and His Son as well as all faithful followers of God’s Word. Thus, by having the divine name removed and substituted with “Lord” it made it so much easier to introduce the false doctrine of the Trinity whereas both the Heavenly Father and His firstborn son, Jesus Christ, the Logos, are called “Lord,” and the word is interchangeable to mean that both are coeternal and equal which is not true. The Heavenly Father had no beginning and no end, while Jesus had a beginning, and was God’s firstborn son (Br. Richard Tazzyman, 2017 Discourse: “I Am”).
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, (14) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:13‑15).
This change of removing the name “Jehovah” stems from the 1880s when the council of the church of England recommended to the British Crown that a revision of the AKJV be produced, and at the same time a group of translators from the United States of America were invited to collaborate with the translators of the RV of the AKJV Bible to produce a version of the Bible in American English. Thus, the American Standard Version of 1901 was created. Br. Richard Tazzyman comments in his discourse “I AM” about how the original committee felt towards the importance of the divine name, in the Foreword of the 1901 ASV Bible.
“The change first proposed in the Appendix, that which substitutes JEHOVAH for LORD or GOD, is one which will be unwelcome to many, because of the frequency and familiarity of the terms displaced, but the American Revisers after a careful consideration were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish substitution which regarded the divine name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the old Testament.”
Here are two other texts with God’s name as “Jehovah.”
“I am Jehovah; this is my name, and my glory will I not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8).
“That men may know that thou whose name alone is Jehovah, art El Elyon, the Most High over all the earth” (Psalms 83:18).
[Note: the difference between the name “Jehovah” and “Yahweh” is that “Jehovah” is the English word that represents the name of God, just as Jesus is the English word that represents the name of our Savior. When one uses a name in one language, it is often not the same pronunciation or form as the name in the original language. For example, with the name “Joshua” — as there was no “J” in English for some centuries, it is evident that this name that we all know as a familiar English language name today sounded different before, and as to its actual pronunciation in Hebrew, who would recognize it if we tried to simulate Hebrew in the English language. Jesus is surely not the sound his contemporaries used when they called his name. But it is our English name for him. In the same way, we know the name of God as Jehovah. Yahweh is a closer sound alike to the Hebrew, perhaps — at least some seem to think so — but even that presumably is different than a real Hebrew speaker of antiquity would have pronounced the name. There is no necessity to modify the word that English speakers know the name as. It is Jehovah. When we use that name, we are communicating. If we all began to use some other pronunciation, most people may get the point, but there would be some confusion. However, whether one prefers “Yahweh,” or the more familiar “Jehovah,” may the name of God be “hallowed.”]
By What Name Was God Known to the Patriarchs?
The name “Jehovah” appears in Exodus 3:15.
“And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, The Lord [Jehovah] God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”
Only three chapters onward, we read of “El Shaddai” and “Jehovah” both being mentioned in Exodus 6:2,3.
“God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah; And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of El Shaddai [The All Mighty, All Sufficient God], but by my name JEHOVAH [“The Self Existing, Eternal One”] was I not known to them.”
This verse could not mean that up until the time of Exodus 6 no one knew God by the name of “Jehovah.” For even Adam knew God by the name of Jehovah as confirmed in Genesis 4:25,26.
“Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of Jehovah.” Adam lived 700 years after Seth begat Enos. Thus he would have been one of those that knew Jehovah by name.
In Genesis 15:2, God revealed himself to Abraham by this very name: “And he said unto him, I am JEHOVAH, that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees.”
From the very beginning the Patriarchs knew the name JEHOVAH El‑Shaddai, God All‑sufficient, since they recognized God’s continual provision made for them and the constant protection that God afforded them. However, the name “Jehovah” refers particularly to the accomplishment of promises already made; to giving them a being, and thus bringing them into existence, which could not have been done in the order of His providence sooner than until the deliverance from Egypt and the settlement in the promised land. Then the usage of “El Shaddai” became infrequent after the Law Covenant was established.
Hence in the earlier scripture mentioned — Exodus 6:2,3 — Jehovah had to be referring to the meaning of his name (as the one who causes) rather just to the word used to designate his name. In verse four Jehovah calls attention to the covenant he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them the land of Canaan. They never saw Jehovah cause the fulfillment of that promise. It is in this respect that Jehovah says that He did not make his name known to them. However, now, Jehovah is saying that he is going to cause a fulfillment of that promise. He will bring the Israelites out of Egypt into the land that he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 6:6-8).
El-Shaddai—An All-Sufficient, Covenant-Keeping God
When the patriarchs wanted to give the strongest assurance to those that were going on a dangerous mission, they used the divine name El Shaddai.
Genesis 28:1‑4—“Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan‑aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. And El Shaddai bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.”
“As Abraham had sent Eliezer to find a covenant wife for Isaac, so Isaac sent Jacob to find a covenant wife—not from the Canaanites, but from Abraham’s extended family. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were all under the Abrahamic Covenant, a Covenant of Grace. As consecrated Christians, we also are under a Grace Covenant. Like Jacob, who here typified the New Creation, we have been sent on a journey and blessed by the antitypical Isaac, our Lord Jesus. So we can repeat this blessing, transferring the thought from the type to the antitype as coming from our Lord Jesus to us: ‘May El Shaddai bless thee’ (verses 3,4).
“That helps to reinforce the thought that our Savior assures us that El Shaddai, the Almighty, All sufficient One, will be with us all the way in our dangerous journey through life. He is always near, always sufficient for any contingency. In the Promised Land, the Patriarchs had complete trust in El Shaddai. If we can completely trust Him now, then we can rest in full assurance of faith in our spiritual inheritance in the Promised Land.”
“Genesis 35:9‑12—Here God confirmed His Covenant to Jacob and changed Jacob’s name to Israel.
‘God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padan‑aram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am El Shaddai: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.’
“After this confirmation, Jacob journeyed to Bethlehem. There his wife, Rachel, died giving birth to Benjamin. Then Jacob travelled to Hebron where his father, Isaac, had died. Thus this revelation to Jacob of El Shaddai as his All Mighty, All Sufficient God was a specially needed blessing. It was a reassurance to Jacob to have the covenant confirmed to him, and to know that El Shaddai would be with him throughout his walk.
“Genesis 37:35—This text speaks of the time Joseph had been sold into Egypt, and Jacob was told that Joseph was dead.
‘All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.’
“Though Rachel, Isaac, and Joseph—the three people that Jacob loved the most—were gone, and no one on earth could comfort him, El Shaddai comforted Jacob. There was nothing that he and El Shaddai could not handle together.
“Genesis 43:14—Later, Judah promised Jacob that he would return to Egypt as surety for Benjamin. But before sending Judah, Jacob asked the blessing of El Shaddai upon him in.
‘And El Shaddai give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.’
“Genesis 48:3,4—Years later, when Jacob was on his death bed, Joseph brought his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to be blessed.
‘Jacob said unto Joseph, El Shaddai appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.’
“Genesis 49:25—Jacob gave a final blessing to each of his sons just before he passed away.
‘Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by El Shaddai, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb.’ ” (Br. Allan Ross, “El Shaddai”).
EL SHADDAI in the Book of Ruth
By considering the usage of El Shaddai in the Book of Ruth and the Book of Job, we understand an additional aspect of what God does for His people, that He permits short‑term pain for long‑term blessings. God’s people do not always understand His Grace when they are in the midst of a painful experience. But we must fully trust our All‑Powerful, All‑Sufficient, God. El Shaddai only allows experiences that bless us, if we take them in the right way.
In the Book of Ruth, Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and their two sons left Bethlehem‑Judah because of a famine and travelled to Moab. Within ten years of entering Moab, Naomi’s husband and two sons died. Naomi was downcast and confused. If God was All‑Mighty, All‑Sufficient, why would he allow her husband and her sons to die so quickly? To answer this, we have to look at the big picture, the long‑term view. El Shaddai takes the long view.
Should Elimelech have taken Naomi and his sons and left Bethlehem to go to Moab in the first place?
No, since El Shaddai is All‑Sufficient, He would have cared for them IN the Promised Land. If Elimelech had a stronger faith, he would have kept his family in Judah and waited for El Shaddai to bless his faithfulness.
of fleshly desires
will NOT bring
As in Naomi’s case, God may allow afflictions to come so that we will return to Him.
God took away what was keeping Naomi from being close to Him!
If Naomi had stayed in Moab we never would have heard of Naomi or Ruth. There would not be a Book of Ruth in the Bible. It was the return to El Shaddai that allowed El Shaddai to abundantly bless both Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth (who chose to return with Naomi to the Promised Land).
One of the guiding principles of this lesson is stated in James 4:8: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
Because Naomi and Ruth returned to the Promised Land, Ruth married Boaz. As King David’s great grandmother, Ruth became identified through the lineage of Mary with David’s greatest Son and Lord, our Lord Jesus.
Because Ruth drew near to God in devotion, she received eternal blessings.
EL SHADDAI in the Book of Job
The first use of the word “El Shaddai” in the Book of Job is in Job 5:17,18, where we read the words of Eliphaz to Job.
“Behold, happy is the man whom Eloah [Strongs 433, the Majestic God] correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of El Shaddai [Strongs 7706, the All Sufficient God]: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.”
The last use of “El Shaddai” in the Book of Job appears in Job 40:1,2.
“Moreover Jehovah [Strongs 3068, the Eternal One, the Existing One] answered Job, and said, Shall he that contendeth with El Shaddai [Strongs 7706, the All‑Mighty, All‑Sufficient One] instruct him? He that reproveth El‑oah [the Majestic God], let him answer it.”
New Testament References
In the New Testament, Jesus begins to refer to God as “Our Father” when he gives us the model prayer of Matthew 6:9: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
Jesus is the first person in Scripture to begin referring to God as “my heavenly Father,” and “our and your heavenly Father.” Jesus only used these terms in the presence of his disciples; they were not applied to others who were not yet prospective sons. Jesus was the first son of God, who opened up a “new and living way” gives us the opportunity to also become sons of God (John 1:14, 1 John 3:1,2).
Revelation 15:3—refers to Jehovah as Almighty.
“They sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
We also have scriptures that declare the almighty power of our Heavenly Father.
Psalm 77:10‑15—“I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High [El Elyon, The Supreme God]. I will remember the works of Jehovah [the Eternal One]: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Thou hast with thine arm [our Lord Jesus] redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.”
Psalms 91:1‑3—In these verses David represents our Lord Jesus addressing his Church.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High [El Elyon, The Supreme God] shall abide under the shadow of El Shaddai [the All‑Sufficient One]. I will say of Jehovah [the Self‑Existing One], He is my refuge and my fortress: my [Elohiym] Supreme God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.”
Jesus is telling his Church that we, who abide in the Secret Place of consecration in the antitypical Tabernacle, close to Jehovah, have nothing to fear despite the dangers that surround us because our God will protect us. Thus in the above passage of Scripture, four of God’s names are invoked to emphasize this—El Elyon, El Shaddai, Elohiym and Jehovah.
God Has Many Names
As the various verses shared highlight, God has used many different names to describe Himself indicating to us, that one name is not sufficient to describe the Heavenly Father. If God wanted to have only one descriptive name for Himself, He could have had the Bible written that way. But instead God has been described as “Eternal (Ezekiel 1:24)”, “Majestic,” “All‑Mighty,” and “All‑Sufficient (Ezekiel 10:4,5).”
It would be unfortunate to always read these descriptive names generically as “God” or “Lord.” So when we read Scriptures, let us consider referring to the Rotherham’s version or RVIC for a more exact translation of the original biblical manuscripts. Then there is no confusion between whether the verse refers to our Heavenly Father, or if the verse(s) refer to Jesus, Jehovah’s firstborn creation and the world’s Redeemer.
Based on the understandings shared here about the breadth of God’s being and character through an examination of the Heavenly Father’s names, we conclude with these thoughts about our God, “Whose—
- Memory never fails,
- Judgment is never inaccurate,
- Plans for eternity are without any possibility of even the minutest failure,
- Timing of His Divine plans of eternity are with unerring precision,
- Grandest, most mighty power and skill can harness even every opposing element, animate or inanimate, making them all work together for the accomplishment of his grand designs,
- Tireless vigilance never ceases, nor seeks relief from the pressing cares of universal dominion,
- Eye never sleeps, whose ear is ever open, and who is ever cognizant of all the necessities, and active in all the interests, of his broad domains.”
To answer our opening question—Jehovah occupies the highest position of authority and glory in the universe. We hallow our Heavenly Father’s authority and bow in reverent and humble submission before Him in ALL His glorious attire of royal grandeur.
Br. Allan Ross, “El Shaddai,” Beauties of the Truth, November 2014.
Br. Charles T. Russell. “Reprints of the Original Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.”
Br. Richard Tazzyman, 2017 Discourse: “I Am,” Australia. (Br Tazzyman’s discourse is to be given at the Bible Students Convention in England this year in July 2017.)
Br. W.J. Siekman. “One Lord and His Name One,” The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, May-June 1986
Vines Expository Dictionary of OT and NT Words, page 161.
Br. Jim Parkinson’s RVIC BIBLE – The Revised Version (American Edition) Improved and Corrected from manuscripts discovered and published to A.D. 1999
The authors of the above references for their content utilized for the above written work.
Br. David Rice, editing.